Alarmed by the existence of thousands of atomic bombs installed worldwide, delegates today called for concrete steps to be taken, especially by the largest possessor States, to end arsenal modernization plans and to immediately reduce and eventually eliminate stockpiles, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) began its thematic discussion on nuclear weapons.
Speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s representative drew attention to stalled progress in reducing stockpiles by the two States with the largest atomic arsenals. Indeed, no negotiations are under way for further reductions beyond the expiration of the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty), he said.
To change that trajectory, he called on parties to resume talks and come to an agreement on a reduction plan. He also called on all nuclear‑weapon States to immediately stop modernization programmes and urgently comply with their legal obligations to eliminate all their atomic arsenals in a transparent, irreversible and internationally verifiable manner. Pending total elimination, a legally binding instrument must be concluded to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of atomic bombs, he said.
Jamaica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), agreed, adding: “We view such arrangements as critical, especially in the face of new technological developments, means of delivery and related infrastructure.” Echoing another common concern, she pointed at a global trend towards abandoning principles that have guided international disarmament policies in recent years. Spotlighting the failure of the past reviews of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in 1995, 2000 and 2010, she hoped for a successful conclusion of the 2020 Review Conference.
The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said pragmatic, inclusive measures are needed. Positive steps can include the universalization of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the negotiation of an instrument to ban fissile material for nuclear weapons. In addition, he highlighted the importance of defining areas of convergence in order to ensure a successful 2020 Review Conference, warning that the instrument will not maintain its role as the cornerstone of the non‑proliferation and disarmament architecture without active support for its implementation and strengthening.
In a similar vein, Australia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the member States of the Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said the current uncertainty and tension in the international security arena is compelling States to take bold and creative steps to uphold the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Citing some examples, she said confidence‑building measures to improve the deteriorating international security environment could include encouraging better transparency through the submission of national reports and interactive discussions on the implementation of treaty commitments.
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf the New Agenda Coalition, said it will table a draft resolution by which the General Assembly would urge nuclear‑weapon States to decrease the operational readiness of related systems as an interim measure given the current rising tensions in international relations. By the draft resolution, the General Assembly would also reiterate that each article of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is binding on the States parties at all times, and call upon nuclear‑weapon States to take all steps necessary to accelerate the fulfilment of their commitments.
Tunisia’s delegate, on behalf of the Arab Group, recalled the end goal — the total elimination of all atomic bombs. Indeed, only the complete and definitive elimination of nuclear weapons would guarantee against their proliferation, use and threat of use, including by non‑State actors, he declared.
Many nuclear‑weapon‑free States called for the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a way to achieve the goal of eradicating atomic arsenals. Viet Nam’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called attention to the growing number of States joining the instrument — which currently has been ratified by 33 countries.
The United Kingdom’s representative said his country’s commitment to a step‑by‑step approach to disarmament under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty has been demonstrated through its actions over the years. Moreover, its independent nuclear deterrent strategy is maintained at the “minimum credible level”. However, it does not intend to support, sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which risks undermining the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, ignores the security environment and fails to address technical and procedural challenges that must be overcome to achieve disarmament in a secure and responsible manner.
At the outset of today’s meeting, the Committee approved its provisional programme of work (document A/C.1/74/CRP.1/Rev.2), with the exception of those agenda sub‑items “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” and “Programme planning”, which it will consider after taking action on draft resolutions and decisions. The Committee also approved its draft timetable (document A/C.1/74/CRP.2/Rev.2).
During a procedural discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation reiterated his concern about the host country’s failure to issue visas to all members of its delegation. If the matter is not resolved, he said, his country would push strongly for the Committee and the Disarmament Commission to conduct its work in Geneva or Vienna.
The United States delegate said the matter is still before the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the correct forum for the issue to be considered.
Representatives of Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Belarus also spoke during the procedural discussion.
Delivering statements during the thematic debate were representatives of Mexico, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore, Egypt and Canada, as well as the European Union.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again on Tuesday, 22 October, at 10 a.m., to continue its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to consider organization matters and begin its thematic discussion on nuclear weapons. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October.
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern at the lack of progress by nuclear‑weapon States towards eliminating their arsenals and at their modernization plans. Noting that no negotiations are under way for further strategic nuclear arms reductions beyond the expiration of the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty), he called for the renewal of commitments agreed within the framework of that instrument. He also expressed concern at the termination of the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Movement strongly calls on nuclear‑weapon States to immediately stop modernization programmes and to urgently comply with their legal obligations and eliminate all their nuclear weapons in a transparent, irreversible and internationally verifiable manner. Pending total elimination, a legally binding instrument must be concluded to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of atomic bombs. He went on to call for the convening of a United Nations high‑level international conference on nuclear disarmament, emphasizing that proliferation concerns are best addressed through multilateral agreements.
He welcomed the convening in New York on 18 to 22 November of a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and called upon all States in that region to participate, negotiate in good faith and conclude a legally binding treaty on setting up such an area. The Movement reaffirms the inalienable right of each State to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and that initiatives aimed at strengthening safety and security must not be used as a pretext to deny or restrict that right among developing countries. He also underlined the significance of achieving universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, especially by all nuclear‑weapon States, and expressed concern at the decision by the United States not to seek ratification of that instrument, as announced in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. For its part, the Non‑Aligned Movement will present a draft resolution to the First Committee on follow‑up to the 2013 High‑Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament.
BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, said it will table a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly reiterate that each article of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is binding on the States parties at all times. By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, including their gendered impact. The Assembly would also call upon nuclear‑weapon States to take all steps necessary to accelerate the fulfilment of their commitments, and would urge them to decrease the operational readiness of related systems as an interim measure given the current rising tensions in international relations. Encouraging further steps by all nuclear‑weapon States to ensure the irreversible removal of all fissile material designated by each nuclear‑weapon State as no longer required for military purposes, the Assembly would, by the draft resolution, call on all States to support the development of appropriate disarmament verification capabilities.
He said that with respect to the Middle East, the draft resolution would have the Assembly urge the co‑sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone. By its provisions, the Assembly would also urge India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as non‑nuclear‑weapon States promptly and to place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The Assembly would also urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons. Also by the draft’s terms, the Assembly would highlight an area of focus in the current Non‑Proliferation Treaty review cycle — namely, a call on nuclear‑weapon States to fulfil their obligations stemming from article VI without further delay, he said, encouraging all States to support the draft as it seeks to uphold previous commitments and obligations agreed to by consensus.
DIEDRE NICHOLE MILLS (Jamaica) speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), remains concerned about a global trend towards abandoning principles that have guided international disarmament policies in recent years. Moreover, she drew attention to the high number of atomic bombs in existence today. Expressing hope that recently adopted instruments can help to change this trajectory, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has already been ratified by 33 countries, almost two thirds of the way towards attaining the 50 ratifications needed for its entry into force.
Regretting to note the failures of the past review conferences of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty in 1995, 2000 and 2010, she hoped for a successful conclusion of the 2020 Review Conference as well as the universalization of the instrument. Noting that all members of CARICOM belong to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, she called for more progress towards the conclusion of international arrangements to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of these arms by those States possessing them. “We view such arrangements as critical, especially in the face of new technological developments, means of delivery and related infrastructure,” she said.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, reiterated his commitment to preserve South‑East Asia as a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok, and its 2018‑2022 plan of action must be implemented in full, adding that ASEAN will keep engaging with nuclear‑weapon States and intensify efforts to resolve outstanding issues. Urging all States parties to renew their commitment to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he noted the growing number of States signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and underlined the importance of universal adherence to the Test‑Ban Treaty.
Turning to developments on the Korean Peninsula, he welcomed the three recent inter‑Korean summits, as well as meetings between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea hosted by ASEAN members Singapore and Viet Nam. He urged all concerned parties to keep working together towards lasting peace and stability on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. He went on to spotlight progress among ASEAN member States in the past year in the area of non‑proliferation, including the signing by Cambodia and the ratification by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
VANESSA WOOD (Australia), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said the current international security environment is fraught with uncertainty and tension, compelling States to take bold and creative steps to uphold the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Sustained, high‑level political leadership and diplomatic dialogue as well as an unwavering commitment to the instrument are needed to make progress towards achieving deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals worldwide, and to move towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
In addition, she continued, confidence‑building measures to improve the deteriorating international security environment are needed. This includes encouraging better transparency through the submission of national reports and interactive discussions on the implementation of treaty commitments. Strengthening the Non‑Proliferation Treaty review process is another step, which remains an ongoing responsibility of State parties. The Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative delivered a joint statement on behalf of 48 States at the 2019 Preparatory Committee Meeting on the 2020 Review Conference and has submitted 15 working papers during the current review process. She urged all States yet to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty to do so immediately, and all States to reaffirm support for the swift commencement of negotiations to conclude a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.
ROBBERT JAN GABRIËLSE (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, emphasized the importance of defining areas of convergence in order to ensure a successful 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. He cautioned that the Treaty will not maintain its role as the cornerstone of the non‑proliferation and disarmament architecture without active support for its implementation and strengthening. Indeed, the instrument has always been and must continue to be a tool for pursuing ambitious aims while considering geopolitical realities.
Pragmatic, inclusive measures are needed, he said, pointing out examples such as the universalization of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the negotiation of an instrument to ban fissile material for nuclear weapons. As such, several resolutions to be presented to the First Committee aim at furthering this concrete agenda, including on the Test‑Ban Treaty, youth engagement, joint action and future dialogue. However, gains must be made while remaining conscious of the international security environment.
MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed concern at the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament. The complete and definitive elimination of nuclear weapons, in line with article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, is the only safeguard against their proliferation, use and threat of use, including by non‑State actors. He emphasized that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons complements the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. However, the failure of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2015 Review Conference puts a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of Member States on the eve of the next such conference.
Establishing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons is a collective international responsibility, he said. Arab countries have shouldered their responsibility and now it is up to others to follow suit. Failure to do so will threaten the stability of the entire non‑proliferation regime. Underscoring a need for practical and immediate steps, he said the Arab Group would again this year table a draft resolution on the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Commending Jordan’s efforts as chair of the upcoming conference on establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, he urged all invited parties to participate with good will and to negotiate a binding treaty that would promote peace and security, both regionally and internationally.
ANNE KEMPPAINEN, European Union delegation, expressing support for the forthcoming Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, a key multilateral instrument to reinforce international peace, security and stability, called for its full implementation. All signatories must apply the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency under their obligations. Underlining the European Union’s commitment to disarmament in accordance with article VI, especially through the reduction in the global stockpile of nuclear weapons, she said States with the largest arsenals bear a special responsibility. Regretting to note the demise of the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, she said the agreement saw almost 3,000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads removed from European soil and destroyed.
For its part, she said, the European Union will continue to encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to seek further reductions to their arsenals, attaching the highest importance to the New START Treaty. She called on both States to pursue further discussions on confidence‑building, transparency and verification activities and reporting as well as to reduce the operational readiness of their atomic bomb systems to a minimum level. Turning to other matters, she reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to the Joint Plan of Action, which is a key element of the global nuclear non‑proliferation regime. She also called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in negotiations and abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Calling for universal adherence to and the entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty, she also called for the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), associating himself with the New Agenda Coalition and the Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, regretted to note that some nuclear‑weapon States have announced plans to increase or modernize their arsenals. Such actions are unacceptable, given the grave consequences of the use of atomic bombs. Commending the start of a debate around these humanitarian consequences as a great achievement of the international community, he called for the establishment of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as a step towards a world without these arms. Such a zone should be promptly established in the Middle East, he said, recalling that the United Nations has yet to complete its mission to realize the prohibition and elimination of all nuclear weapons, a goal set in the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly.
FÉLIX BAUMANN (Switzerland) said the rules‑based nuclear order must be preserved and existing norms and commitments upheld and implemented. He called on the parties to the New START Treaty to extend that instrument — the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms control treaty — as a matter of priority. States parties to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty must stand up for it, he said, warning that his country will oppose attempts to undercut commitments. All States must refrain from actions that run counter to the objectives of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said, welcoming dialogue and diplomatic initiatives aimed at preserving that agreement. The Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference is an opportunity to move forward, including in the area of strategic stability and identifying measures that can help to reduce tensions. A second group of governmental experts should meanwhile carry forward work on nuclear disarmament verification. For its part, Switzerland stands ready to contribute to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
JØRN OSMUNDSEN (Norway), recalling his Government’s decision not to sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, emphasized the importance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime. The Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification agreed that verifying is necessary in order to make progress on disarmament, and will present a new draft resolution on the topic with the aim of gaining General Assembly approval for its report and a decision on follow‑up activities within the United Nations framework. It is crucial to integrate policy perspectives with technical expertise in order to drive progress, he said, adding that Norway is working on establishing a funding mechanism that would allow developing countries to participate in nuclear disarmament verification activities. Other critical building blocks for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty include efforts to address the issue of non‑strategic nuclear weapons and the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty.
SAMANTHA GOH (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said historic gains made in nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament are at risk of unravelling. The future of the Joint Plan of Action is precarious following the withdrawal of the United States alongside Iran’s decision to scale back commitments, she noted, urging all parties to renew the necessary political will and pursue dialogue. While welcoming the recent inter‑Korean summits and dialogue between Washington, D.C., and Pyongyang, she expressed concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missiles programme. As such, she urged Pyongyang to avoid actions that may escalate tensions and to abide by its Security Council obligations. Nuclear‑weapon States must do more to fulfil their commitments under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, she said, pointing to the third Preparatory Committee’s failure to adopt a set of recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference. Regional approaches represent a practical step towards achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, she said, noting that Singapore is fully committed to the Treaty of Bangkok.
AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference is an opportunity celebrate its successes and strengthen its future. The United Kingdom’s commitment to a step‑by‑step approach to disarmament under that Treaty has been demonstrated through its actions over the years, he said, emphasizing that its independent nuclear deterrent is maintained at the “minimum credible level”. His delegation supports the start and early conclusion of negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, he said, adding that his country’s moratorium on the production of such material for use in nuclear weapons has been in effect since 1995. The United Kingdom contributes actively to work on nuclear disarmament verification and welcomes other efforts to explore realistic paths to disarmament, including the United States’ Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament initiative and Sweden’s Stepping Stones approach to implementation. However, it does not intend to support, sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which risks undermining the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, ignores the security environment and fails to address technical and procedural challenge that must be overcome to achieve disarmament in a secure and responsible manner.
Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), associating himself with the Arab Group, New Agenda Coalition and Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to the total, verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons, as the only path against their proliferation, use or threat of use. As tensions rise in the international arena, he condemned the current stalemate in negotiations, which is further eroding the credibility and sustainability of the disarmament and non‑proliferation regime, as well as the rule of law at the global level. Highlighting the importance of the forthcoming conference on establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, he said it aims at reaching arrangements among members voluntarily, in a non‑discriminatory manner that does not aim at singling out any State in the region.
CATHERINE NADEAU (Canada) appealed to the five permanent members of the Security Council to make unequivocal political declarations in the run‑up to the 2020 Review Conference, recognizing the dangers of nuclear war and reinforcing their commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. Canada calls for political will to put the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea firmly on the path to denuclearization, to extend the New START Treaty and advance important nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation initiatives at the Conference on Disarmament, including negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty. Underscoring Canada’s support for the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, she said it is one of only two countries to provide the group with expertise and financial support. Commending the United States for convening the Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament initiative, she urged its participants to engage in meaningful dialogue to identify and overcome political and security hurdles.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, advised his counterparts from Australia, Canada and Switzerland to study the essence of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, as well as brutal and inhumane sanctions, will not solve the problem, but exacerbate it.